Usually, when you lose a tooth, it is best for your oral health to have it replaced. Missing teeth can compromise your health, eating habits, speech and appearance. Missing teeth can affect your “bite” as well as your ability to speak and chew. Their loss can increase the burden on your remaining teeth and can cause muscle pain in your jaws and headaches. Replacing missing teeth maintains the integrity of your facial structure and reduces the risk that the bone surrounding the previous tooth root will deteriorate or melt away.
The preferred method of tooth replacement is dental implant treatment. Dental implants look, feel and function like your natural teeth.
The good news is that, most of the time, replacing a missing tooth is not an emergency. You have time to consider what replacement option is best for you and to make an informed decision.
Call us for information about dental implants in Colleyville / Fort Worth, TX, (817) 552-3223.
If you are missing one or more teeth and choose to have it or them replaced, several “old school” treatment options are available.
In cases where several or all teeth are being replaced, it is not necessary to have an implant for each missing tooth. Commonly 4-6 implants can be used to replace 10-12 teeth.
If you are considering dental implants, your mouth will be examined thoroughly and your dental and medical history will be reviewed to ensure that dental implants are appropriate for you. Dental x-rays and, frequently, panoramic (or complete) x-rays of your jaws will be taken to evaluate your jawbone and to determine if it will accommodate implants. Occasionally, more detailed information is required and can be provided by special x-rays. They will help determine if additional tests or procedures are needed to place your implants properly.
The best way to describe a dental implant is to compare it to a real tooth. A natural tooth consists of a root and a crown. The part of the tooth that you see and eat with is called the crown. Beneath the crown is the root, which anchors the tooth through the gum tissue to the jawbone. When you lose a tooth, you lose both the root and the crown. To replace a tooth, we first have to replace the root. Essentially, a dental implant is a new root. This titanium root is fitted into a socket that we create in your jaw, replacing the lost root of your natural tooth.
Dental implants come in various shapes and sizes and have different types of surfaces. The actual implant selection will depend on a variety of factors related to your specific treatment needs and the most appropriate one(s) will be used. Once an implant has been placed in the jaw, the bone around the implant will need to heal for up to six months, depending upon how hard the bone is. When this initial phase of healing is completed, a support post called an abutment will be placed on the implant itself and then a new crown will be placed on top. If all of your teeth are missing, a variety of treatment options are available to support the replacement teeth.
Usually, the office procedure to place a dental implant takes about an hour for one implant and no more than two or three hours for multiple implants. The placement process consists of the following steps:
If indicated, you will be given medication such as antibiotics prior to the surgery. You may be offered sedation with nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) or intravenous medications. Then, a local anesthetic will be administered to numb the areas where the implant(s) will be placed.
Once the implant is inserted, it is completed in one of two ways: First, the gum tissue will be closed (or sutured) over the implant, allowing the implant to heal for up to six months. Then a second procedure, called “uncovering surgery,” will be performed after a local anesthetic has been used to numb the gum tissue. Next, the gum is moved out of the way, the implant located, and a healing cap placed into it. The gum tissue is then sutured around the healing cap. Generally, after two to four weeks, you will return to have the healing cap removed, the abutment (or support post) placed, and impressions made in order for the final crown (replacement tooth) to be fabricated. This is called a “two-stage” or “two-step” approach to implant placement and is the more traditional approach. For more aesthetically important areas, we may ask that you wait up to 12 weeks to begin the final restorative process. During this time, you will be fitted with temporary teeth. Occasionally, impressions are made at the time the implant is placed in order to have a crown ready when the implants have healed.
After the implant is placed, the area will need to heal for as long as six months. How long your mouth will need to heal will be determined by a variety of factors. Follow-up care (one to four appointments) is usually needed to ensure that your mouth is healing well and to determine when you are ready for the restorative phase of your treatment.
An alternative approach is called the “single-stage” or “one-step approach,” in which a healing cap is added at the same time as the implant is placed and the gum tissue is sutured around it. If the entire process occurs during one step, a second surgery to place the healing cap is unnecessary. Because only one surgical appointment usually is all that is needed, both patients and doctors often prefer this approach. However, it is not always the best method for placing implants. We will use the most appropriate approach to meet your particular needs.
On occasion, it may be necessary to perform a “soft tissue graft” to obtain stronger, more easily cleaned and natural appearing “gum” tissue in the area around the implant. This process involves moving a small amount of gum tissue from one part of your mouth to the area around the implant. Most often, it is a brief and relatively comfortable procedure.
Approximately three months after the tooth is removed, the implant is placed where the missing tooth was located. [strike--Once a tooth is removed, if your socket walls of bone are intact and fairly thick, your body will grow new bone to replace or refill the empty socket.] (add) Because bone does shrink after tooth removal, often a bone fill graft is done at the time of tooth removal to ensure adequate bone exist at the time of implant placement. Your socket will usually be completely filled in with bone by the time you are ready for placement of your implant (about three months later).
Occasionally, it is possible to take out the tooth and place the implant at the same time. This may involve a little more risk, but it simplifies the process—you won’t have to wait three months for the bone to refill the socket. Again, there are times when this is appropriate and other times (when infection or other problems with the bone are present) when immediate implant placement is not the best treatment. Your options will be discussed with you by Dr. Tye.
If your tooth has been missing for some time, the adjacent bone is likely to grow thinner because the root of the tooth itself has stimulated the bone. Once the tooth root is removed, the bone loses this stimulation and starts to disappear. As much as one third of your jaw’s thickness can be lost in the year following tooth extraction. If you are missing quite a bit of bone, you may need to have additional bone grafted into the area so that the implant will be supported adequately when it is placed.
Again, if after tooth extraction the walls of the socket are very thick, they will usually fill with bone in three months. However, if the walls of your socket are very thin (such as in your upper and lower front teeth), then this type of healing will not be as predictable. After waiting three months for the bone to fill in, you may have only a very thin ridge of bone. Sometimes, a bone graft is placed at the time of tooth extraction to help your body fill in the socket with bone. This step will maintain the width or volume of bone you will need for implant placement. It is most commonly performed on thin-walled extraction sockets, especially in such visible areas as the front of the mouth.
Our practice utilizes state-of-the-art, facial cone-beam CT (computed tomography) [add link to 3D technology site]technology that provides highly accurate 3-D radiographic images for the diagnosis, planning and treatment of Implants. Undistorted, anatomically correct views of the jaws, teeth and facial bones along with cross-sectional (bucco-lingual), axial, coronal, sagittal, cephalometric and panoramic views are easily generated. Three-dimensional images enable a level of anatomical accuracy and patient care not possible with 2-D technologies.
If your tooth was removed many years ago, then your bony ridge may be extremely thin and you may not have enough bone left for implant placement. In this case, a bone graft can be placed next to the thin bone and allowed to heal for three to nine months. After the graft has fused to your pre-existing bone, the ridge will be re-entered and the implant placed. Usually bone grafting is a relatively comfortable procedure. Many different bone-grafting materials are available, including your own bone.
You also may need bone grafting if the sinus cavities in your upper jaw are very large or very low and extend into the tooth-bearing areas. This often occurs when teeth in the back of a person’s upper jaw have been removed many years before, and the amount of bone available for implant placement is thus limited. This condition requires what is called a “sinus grafting procedure.” Most often, it is performed in the office with local anesthesia and perhaps sedation. During this procedure, the membrane that lines the sinus will be located and elevated. Bone will then be added to restore the bone height and ensure that dental implants of an adequate length can be placed. This procedure often can be performed at the time of implant placement.
Most frequently, one implant per missing tooth is placed. Because many of the larger teeth in the back of your jaws have two or three roots, the most common approach is to replace missing back teeth with larger implants or more than one implant per tooth, especially if there has been moderate bone loss or if there is evidence of excessive biting force. If three teeth are missing in a row, occasionally two implants can be used for an implant supported bridge.
If you are missing all of the teeth in your lower jaw, you may consider a number of treatment options. Although many patients have no problem wearing an upper denture, some find it difficult to wear lower dentures.
The first option is to have two to four implants placed in your lower jaw and a denture made that snaps onto these implants. This option allows your lower denture to be more stable while chewing than without implants. This is a viable option if your jaw’s support ridge is big enough. There will still be movement of your lower denture, however, and you can still get sore spots if any food particles, especially seeds, are caught under it. As with all removable replacement teeth, you still will need periodic appointments for denture adjustment.
A second option involves placing four to six implants, depending on your jaw size or shape, into your lower jaw. After healing is complete, the implants are connected with a custom-made support bar. Your denture will be made with special retention clips inside that attach onto the support bar, allowing the denture to snap firmly into place. This is called an “overdenture.” The advantage of this option is that it is much more stable than the first option, allowing very little denture movement. Your denture still will be removable for easy cleaning and maintenance.
A third option involves placing five or more implants in your jaw and attaching a permanent denture. Your denture is held in place by screws or clasps that secure it to the support posts or bar. It doesn’t touch the gum tissue, which allows you to clean under the denture without removing it. This denture will replace all your missing lower teeth and will not be removed except at maintenance visits. Although cleaning under your denture without removing it is more time consuming and requires more dexterity, many patients who want a permanent denture prefer this option.
The final option is to have all your teeth individually replaced so that they will appear to be growing out of your gum tissue and will most closely resemble the appearance of your natural teeth. This option usually requires eight or more implants. Separate abutments or support posts for each one of these implants will be made and crowns for each missing tooth will be placed. The teeth are then frequently joined together for strength and support. Overall, this is the most costly option, because (among other reasons) it requires the most implants. In addition, your options may be limited by the current size and shape of your jawbone.
A similar range of treatment options is also available for your upper jaw. However, because the bone is not as hard as that in the lower jaw, people often need more implants to support their replacement teeth.
Depending upon the number of implants to be placed, it may be possible to eliminate the need for covering the roof of your mouth with the denture. This option will allow you to better taste your food and to better sense food temperature, and it will make your denture feel more natural. You will still have a removable denture, which makes cleaning the support bar and denture much easier. If you want a restoration that is similar to your natural teeth and therefore not removable, you probably will need eight to ten implants placed. This is followed after healing by the placement of the abutments and crowns.
Many options are available, and they are tailored to your specific needs. If you need a replacement tooth while the implants are healing, temporary removable teeth or a temporary bridge can be made. If all your teeth are missing, we can usually modify your present complete denture or make you a new temporary denture. If you would prefer non-removable teeth during the healing phase, temporary transitional implants usually can be placed along with the permanent implants, and temporary teeth may be made and inserted the same day.